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Exhibit fit for a king
By JOSEPH SITARZ
Saturday, June 15, 2013 8:00 PM
When comedian Steve Martin wrote his classic novelty tune, "King Tut," about the boy king from Egypt, the year was 1978 and the U.S. was in the middle of the King Tut craze.
"The Treasures of Tutankhamun" toured the U.S. from 1976-79. More than 8 million people saw the exhibit during its seven stops in the American cities of Washington, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and San Francisco.
Martin's song debuted on "Saturday Night Live" on April 22, 1978. It sold more than 1 million copies, reached No. 17 on Billboard's Hot 100 and was on Martin's "A Wild and Crazy Guy" album.
"King Tut (king Tut)
Now when he was a young man,
He never thought he'd see
People stand in line to see the boy king."
I was fortunate to be one of those more than 8 million people to see the exhibit. I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City sometime between Dec. 15, 1978, and April 15, 1979, to see it.
I was in high school at the time. I don't remember how I happened to come to have a ticket for the exhibit, but I did. Even though I had my admission in hand, there was a line to get in to see the exhibit - long lines. It seemed like just about everybody and their brother was there.
The frenzy the tour stirred up was crazy.
"(King Tut) Now, if I'd known
They'd line up just to see him,
I'd taken all my money
And bought me a museum. (king Tut)"
It was through a lot of political maneuvers the exhibit came to the U.S. back then. President Richard Nixon connected with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to allow the artifacts to tour the U.S. Sadat agreed. The U.S. tour was organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
There were more than 50 pieces in the exhibit, including the iconic burial mask of Tutankhamun.
Looking back, I really don't remember the line being that much of an issue. Like with a lot of things in life, you spend more time standing in line than actually doing what you were standing in line for. Just ask any roller coaster enthusiast.
They know just how crazy it is to stand in line for 2 or 3 hours for a 2-minute ride. Kind of loopy? Sure. Worth it? They would tell you, yep.
Besides the line, I do remember my first glimpse of the burial mask. It was amazing. It was bright and clean. The mask was made of gold with other items, such as blue glass for the stripes, and feldspar, dark blue faience, carnelian, colored glass, quartz, obsidian and lapis lazuli.
Boy, did that thing shine.
The burial mask is what most people remember about the show. Think King Tut and chances are you think burial mask.
I thought the burial mask was so cool I bought a poster of it. It stayed on the wall in my room not too far from the classic Farrah Fawcett bathing suit poster.
I remember looking at the other stuff in the exhibit, but there's not too much I really can recall.
In 2003-04, the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia hosted the exhibit "Tutankhamun: Wonderful Things from the Pharaoh's Tomb." The exhibit included 126 replicas from the tomb. The exhibit explored the pharaoh's African heritage, the magic of sacred objects and the curse of King Tut.
That exhibit has become one of the most attended and most popular in the history of the State Museum. More than 120,000 people saw that exhibit.
"Now, when I die,
Now don't think I'm a nut,
Don't want no fancy funeral,
Just one like ole king Tut. (king Tut)"
Now, June 22, the State Museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary with "Tutankhamun: Return of the King." As with the show in 2003-04, this exhibit is made up of replicas. Besides chariots, shrines, mummy case, jewelry and thrones, the show has a replica of the burial mask.
State Museum curator of history JoAnn Zeise said, "It's fitting that on the occasion of our 25th anniversary, we celebrate with the return of this hugely popular show to be enjoyed by the people who loved it the first time, and by those who weren't here or didn't have a chance to see it back then."
Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for senior citizens (62 and older) and $11 for those ages 3-12. Regular admission to The State Museum, at 301 Gervais St., is included. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. The show ends March 23, 2014.
For information, visit www.scmuseum.org./tut or call 803-898-4921.
I didn't get to see the show in Columbia. I think it would be kind of fun to see the glitz and glam that was afforded the boy king's short reign again.
"He coulda won a Grammy, (king Tut)
Buried in his Jammies, (king Tut)
Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia,
He was born in Arizona, got a condo made of stone-a,
Sitarz can be reached at 943-2529 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.
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